Jointly organised by Asia Law Network together with the Law Society of Singapore, the Singapore Corporate Counsel Association and our Australian Counterparts, AlphaCreates and ASEAN Legal Tech Association, the Insider Guide to Legal in Singapore saw Anthony as one of the delegates who came by Singapore for the event.
We took the opportunity to catch up with Anthony and hear from him, his motivation in joining the profession as well as the challenges that the ever evolving legal landscape will be seeing in the near future.
Anthony is a Co Managing Partner at Merton Lawyers where he specialises in advising clients in commercial and corporate matters. In this role, he relish the chance to also be involved in marketing the business and enjoys developing key partnerships across a number of industries with the common goal of driving commercial growth and innovation in Australian business.
Could you tell us Anthony, what made you choose to be a lawyer and what drives you today?
Many years ago, I worked at Macquarie Bank and while I was there, I noticed how many people had law degrees, particularly in the corporate and infrastructure group. I also began to see the career opportunities on offer and the diversity of their careers. I’m very grateful to have done a law degree as it’s allowed me to work both locally and internationally and be an advisor to many businesses. In terms of what drives me, I think it’s being an integral part of a company’s journey and being a key part of their success.
What do you think is the most challenging aspect of your job?
I think it would be balancing a young family, starting and growing a new business and putting aside time for myself. At the moment I’m not getting much time for myself, but luckily I have a wonderful family and a very interesting business . My time will come! (haha!)
What do you think is the most significant case you have worked on?
There have been many, but I would say generally it would be advising emerging companies and hitting key milestones with them such as revenue targets, new investors, negotiating acquisitions, implementing employee share plans, etc. The most significant impact I’ve had as a lawyer would be the people I’ve met along the way and understanding their journey.
Who are some of the best lawyers you have worked with, and why?
I previously worked at Blake Dawson (Ashurst) in their corporate group in Sydney. There were some very switched on lawyers there. I would say the stand outs were Stu Dullard and Mark Stanbridge, who I looked up to from a leadership perspective. I still quote many of his motivational one liners to our team at Merton Lawyers. Closer to home, I would say my business partner David Rennex from Merton Lawyers. I am always learning from him. If I were to summarise his skill set it would be his strategic mindset, negotiation skills and empathy and care for our clients. You want him in your corner.
Can you share with us your thoughts about the future of lawyering?
I think it’s an exciting time to be a lawyer. I understand there’s a technology revolution in this space and I think it should be embraced. Some lawyers are concerned or anxious about it, but overall I think if our mindset is, that it will help the client then it’s definitely a benefit. But I think much of the future will be determined by the next generation. I think it’s for our generation of lawyers to understand what their priorities are as lawyers and clients and importantly what motivates them.
What legal issue or area do you think will become more significant in the future?
I think over the short to possibly medium term there will be a steep learning curve of international laws with local companies engaging in business with other businesses in other countries. Although international and cross border business has been conducted for many years, there are areas of law that continue to evolve and need to be understood such as privacy risks, cyber security and IP infringement.
If you were to compare the legal landscape in the past versus the present, what do you think has changed the most?
There are many differences as to how law firms operate today, however I think it’s wonderful to see law firms approach a leaner model and operate more like a start up. Now there are one person law firms that assist other firms with quality specialised advice such as tax advice which normally wouldn’t be offered by a smaller firm. With regard to consultant lawyers, I think this has allowed many lawyers to stay in the industry. Previously if they hadn’t been able to work full time for a law firm, then you may not have a job. Now you can set up a desk at WeWork, have a lap top, phone and be a consultant working on a range of matters.
What are your thoughts on legal technology and how it will change the way the law is served?
This is a very exciting time for law firms. It’s a great opportunity to serve clients better. For instance, technology allows us to accommodate clients in a cost effective way on matters that previously would not have been commercially reasonable to pursue. Now technology automates these areas, so it’s a win win in my opinion.
What do you foresee being the biggest challenge for legal teams in the future?
There are a number of areas, but one of my concerns relates to working remotely on a full time basis. I hear of many firms that have lawyers they have never met face to face. I can appreciate this as it keeps costs down, but it does concern me as I believe in order to build the fabric of a law firm it’s important to engage with staff, be present with them and build the firm’s culture. However I understand staff appreciate working occasionally from home or another office, but overall there needs to be a balance.
What other skills do you think young lawyers need to stay relevant in the future?
I think it’s important that lawyers get as much commercial experience as possible. It is the client’s expectations to be an advisor as well as a lawyer. So it’s important when developing a solution, that it acknowledges any commercial considerations. At Merton Lawyers, our younger staff are required to work for a period of time in a commercial role in one of our investments, businesses or start ups before starting with us. For instance, one of our lawyers worked for 6 months in Rennex Property and Construction Group as well as being the head of logistics for a online retail business. He was able to stand in the shoes of a start up founder or manager and advise on certain property and construction issues from a practical standpoint.
You recently attended the Insider Guide to Legal in Singapore, what do you think about the event pertaining to the differences or similarities that Australian and Singapore lawyers face?
We had such a wonderful time. It really opened our eyes to the opportunity and mindset of business and how lawyers work in different countries. I think overall there are more similarities than differences, particularly on work practises, clients, and legal tech.
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